Young people, like many of us, are overwhelmed with information about the choices available to them. Universities, colleges, employers – they all promote a huge range of pathways and courses. This information spans a number of sources, including many websites.
The sheer volume of information can be confusing and daunting for anyone. This is especially so for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are much less likely to have access to the networks which can provide support. Exposure to people with relevant experience, for example, could guide them through the higher education landscape.
If a young person in year 7, 9 or 11 attends a careers fair to help them make subject and course choices, how do they gain a comprehensive overview of the choices and pathways available? Where universities and colleges are competing for students this is a challenge.
The Surrey-based Higher Education Outreach Network (HEON) – one of 34 local National Networks for Collaborative Outreach – is set up to support outreach work with clear and impartial information, advice and guidance.
So what does this mean exactly? Here are three examples:
1. Mapping pathways
At regional higher education and careers events, local colleges, universities and employers are usually present in force with an exciting variety of post-16 and post-18 options. But information about the ‘big picture’ is often a bit more variable.
During Years 8 and 9, young people begin to select GCSE options. Teachers encourage them strongly to consider how these decisions could affect their future.
Yet, at HEON, we found that young people were often unclear about the different ways into a career. Some also had no idea about their future. Young people needed a simple overview of the information, and a clear way to navigate their way through it.
Working closely with an established local careers adviser, Natalie Papworth at Innervate Career Services, we came up with the idea of impartial pathways maps for different age groups to help young people work out what they want to do. The maps are student friendly, and include questions to prompt decision-making at each stage of their educational journey
The first map looked at post-16 options. It explained A-Levels, BTECs, and Apprenticeships, without bias, and dispelled any negative assumptions young people held.
The end product is ‘What are my options after Key Stage 4?’, an A5 booklet outlining their options. This also folds out to an A3 pathways poster that a teacher can use with young people on an individual basis.
2. Quick guides to university
It’s also clear that younger students can find bulky university prospectuses overwhelming. We found it challenging to communicate information about HEON’s four network partner institutions quickly and clearly, using their different prospectuses.
So we created A5 ‘quick guides’. These offer accessible snapshots of different aspects at each university in the network.
They turn on a key question – what is a university? They offer facts about each campus and its facilities, extracurricular activities and a student profile. This enables young people to see several different types of universities, and prompts them to consider where they see themselves in the future.
3. Working collaboratively
We have also worked closely with other NNCO networks across the South. This means our networks can work more effectively and efficiently. Areas of work have included:
- Discussions about what outreach works well for particular groups in certain contexts.
- Addressing particular regional challenges, such as reaching out to students in rural and coastal areas with limited transport links.
- Sharing information so that we do not target the same students or produce the same resources.
Schools in England have a statutory duty to provide independent careers guidance to all year 8 — 13 pupils (12-18 year olds). One way we have recently helped schools in this area was to adapt and re-print a teachers’ guide on post 18 options, originally created by the Western Outreach Network.
This guide is specifically designed to appeal to teachers and provide good advice. It is given to teachers at events so that they have the information they need to hand. This leaflet has been warmly received by teachers’ as it provides high-quality information quickly.
All HEON’s resources are available online and free printed copies have been offered to our schools.
To date, 27 schools have requested over 10,000 copies from the range of resources.
Feedback from teachers has indicated that they are used at careers and HE fairs, to support one to one careers advice and as stock in careers libraries.